Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Baba wrote the first 8 chapters of God Speaks

The manner in which Meher Baba chose to write his major book God Speaks is very well-documented. However, surprisingly, many people still do not know what this method was.

One of the principal misunderstandings is the belief that Baba dictated the first eight chapters of God Speaks word for word on his alphabet board.

To address this I quote Don Stevens, one of the book's editors. This comes from a transcription of a tape recorded interview of Don by Laurent Weichberger, conducted at Meherabad on February 24, 2006.
Don Stevens, co-editor of
God Speaks by Meher Baba
DON: Baba had Eruch explain to me in detail, not once but twice, exactly how he and Eruch handled the material between them. This was first of all, and most importantly, the first eight chapters of God Speaks. It was extremely clear, because Baba insisted that it be extremely clear, that Baba would start the ball rolling by giving Eruch certain key points, not in detail, which was certainly a part of my understanding, but key points that related to material that Baba wanted to have included in the chapter that was being worked out between them.  
Those key points were not given in detail because Eruch already knew from a variety of past conversations with Baba, and also through previous messages given out by him, Baba’s detailed thinking on these key points. So, Baba did not give out a chapter word by word; nothing like that; only the key points were given to Eruch. Then, after Baba had indicated that that was all for the day, Eruch would then go back to his quarters and, sometime in the latter part of the day or night, would write up in considerably greater detail the key points which Baba had given him. The next day Eruch would carry back to Baba the elaborated version which he had put together overnight. 
Baba was very anxious that I know, and that I pass on the correct story to others, that Baba would then go over Eruch’s elaborated version word by word. If there was a word that was faulty Baba would correct it. In that period the corrections were being given on the alphabet board, so it was fairly easy to get the correct word. 

So here is a quick overview of the writing of God Speaks in its entirety.
  • Eruch Jessawala
      From August 1953 until June 1954 Meher Baba dictates points for the first eight chapters of God Speaks to Eruch Jessawala using his alphabet board. As Eruch works up the points in the evenings, he goes over what he has written in the mornings for Baba's careful corrections. This work takes place in Dehra Dun, Mahabaleshwar, and Satara over ten months.
    • In October 1954 Baba stops using his alphabet board forever. 
    • Eruch writes Chapter 9 (The Ten States of God) under Baba's supervision, interpreting a chart designed by Baba. Eruch also writes the book's conclusion (Chapter 10).
    • The Supplement is gathered from notes by Dr. Ghani Munsiff collected over several years.
    • Feram Workingboxwala and Bhau Kalchuri organize the book into chapters and type the manuscript.
    • Evans-Wentz
      At the end of a men-only sahavas called "The Three Incredible Weeks" Baba gives the completed manuscript to Lud Dimpfl to hand over to Ivy Duce (head of Sufism Reoriented) and Don Stevens (preceptor) for editing and publication in America.
    • Correspondence then begins between Baba's sister Mani in India and Ivy Duce in America regarding the preparation for publication. 
    • After Ivy Duce and Don Stevens correct the grammar and punctuation, the manuscript is mailed back to India for Baba to check and correct and add any additional points of interest.
    • Eruch Jessawala and Ramjoo Abdulla do the final corrections and writing work according to Baba's dictates. 
    • Dodd, Mead and Company is chosen as the publisher to print the book. The Sufis pay for its publication.
    • Walter Evans-Wentz (English translator of The Tibetan Book of the Dead) writes a positive advance review of God Speaks titled The Uniqueness and Paramount Value of God Speaks.
    • On 18 March 1955 Baba signs 498 flyleaves for inclusion in special copies.
    • Baba signing flyleaves
      On 26 December 1955 Baba gives signed copies of the newly released first edition to the mandali.
    • In July 1956 Baba meets heads of Dodd Mead in the mezzanine of Hotel Delmonico in NY in an area set up for receptions and interviews.
    • In July 1956 Ivy Duce (head of Sufism Reoriented in San Francisco) suggests to Rano Gayley that she illustrate the process of evolution and involution described in God Speaks. This later becomes one of the primary fold out charts in the second edition.
    • In December 1959 Baba begins discussions with Don Stevens about a 2nd edition, and begins to work on it with Eruch soon afterward. Don discusses some questions about various subjects in God Speaks which the Sufis and others had been asking, and Baba promises to elucidate these for the second edition.
    • God Speaks 2nd edition,
      In May 1965 Baba checks and corrects the glossary of God Speaks witten by Lud Dimpfl for the second edition.
    • Baba stops work on the second edition of God Speaks on 10 September 1965.
    • The first edition is printed a total of four times, in 1955, 1967, 1968, and 1970.
    • The second edition of God Speaks is published posthumously in 1973 and is reprinted once in 1975.
    • In 1990 Dodd, Mead and Company (the original printer) goes out of business.
    • In 1997 a revised second edition is published by Sufism Reoriented (which by Baba's arrangement holds the copyright) and is still in print.
    Signed 1955 edition


    1. The letters between Avatar Meher Baba, Don Stevens and Ivy O. Duce are available, and they show the questions and answers around God Speaks. I believe some of Baba's answers that didn't make it into God Speaks became the book Beams from Meher Baba on the Spiritual Panorama. The preface to that book should confirm the same. Nice article Chris. Also, I believe there is some material in Lord Meher explaining about Baba dictating to Ghani about God Speaks and Ghani's death, etc. I believe Baba shed a tear when Ghani died, about the work being set back. Anyway, great work brother.

    2. Very interesting. I didn't know the exact history either. I have heard certain details about the illustrations and Baba closely overseeing Rano's work, even mixing the color orange himself for the seat Baba sit's on in one of the paintings explaining the planes of consciousness. (The one that sits in the Meherabad archive). I wonder how many signed copies are accounted for. I'd heard that someone found one in a bookshop one time...

    3. Lucky bookshop and buyer! As always, great article Chris.